Norwich band expand in sound and number

What happens when you mix samba, folk, synth and Norwich? Answer: Sargasso Trio. Having signed to Tummy Touch records in 2006, the band released their debut album, Burnin Burnin in 2008 on NYC label Boyscout Recordings, the trio then embarked on a musical journey that has seen their sound grow and their ranks swell. Now the Trio are a four-piece with a host of radio sessions, TV plays and festival dates under their belts – and they’re back with album number two, Get To Grips. We spoke with Ben Winn to get a history of the band and to hear new single, ‘Dinner’.

Can you give me a brief history of Sargasso Trio?

I already knew Pete (Murdoch), the guitarist, from years back but we met again doing a samba band where about 40 drummers would meet for carnivals and processions. That’s also where I met Emily (Siddall), who I’m now engaged to. She was a bedroom producer/ four-track kind of thing and we heard her demos and thought it was great. That was the chance to give Pete a call and try this all out. That was probably the best part of 10 years ago now. For the next album we’ve brought in a new member (James Leeds) - our sound has expanded beyond being a three-piece.

So 10 years ago?

Yeah, maybe nine. We got signed to Tummy Touch fairly quickly. We’ve been doing it a while but for the first few years we were fairly naff! Just finding our sound and the way we all gelled without sounding like a mess.

So with your samba roots, and Emily as a bedroom producer, how would you describe your sound at the beginning and how has that transitioned to now?

Well, we did capitalise on the samba thing when we first started. We all really liked that groove, and our musical tastes are all so different, but we all knew we liked these rhythms. That’s now gone into more calypso stuff and ragga beats. It has changed from what it was, we wanted to break away from that, and any ‘world music’ connotations. We like those sounds but we’re still a contemporary group.

How would you say your sound is now?

I’d still like to use the word ‘tropical’ but maybe ‘tropical pop’. I’m really into that 80s electro synth sound, so if you put that in with latin beats – and then you get Emily and Pete’s nu-folk influences….putting it all in one sentence is a really hard thing to do! It’s got so much so much in there.

Who are your biggest influences that translate into Sargasso Trio?

I’d say that Prince is my biggest influence although I’m not sure how much it has to do with what we’re doing. It does in the way that we’re into synthesisers but it’s not what the entire band is into! It’s more that certain sounds will make it in, almost like a tip of the hat that some people might get. The new single, ‘Dinner’, is one that I wrote. That’s got that kind of funk vibe to it…

What’s your process?

We’re so different – we’ve always written on our own. It’s always been that we’ll finish the entire song and then take it to the band and see what they think. I hate that bit – I hate it more than playing in front of an audience! Just getting the band to give a song the green light is a tough one. We like people to hear it finished and after that obviously it’ll get changed as we play it. But we’re very individual when it comes to writing songs.

How about lyrically?

It depends. As a band we’re very into lyrics – it can make or break a song for us. None of us want to cringe when we sing on stage, you know? Generally we try to strike the right balance between wit and being serious. It might be an experience you’ve had, take ‘Dinner’ for example. It’s a funk ballad I suppose, and behind the metaphor of cooking someone their tea, it’s romantic without being an out and out “baby I love you” kind of thing. We like to hide behind things like that.

Are you guys going to be touring?

Emily is due to have a baby so we wont be touring right now. We’ve got a lot of gigs lined up for before then, and then we’re having a bit of time without touring but doing a lot of online stuff. We’re very into making videos and keeping up an online presence. Not necessarily even for single releases but just putting films out and keeping our presence going that way. We’ve all got kids so touring just isn’t on the cards right now – at this stage of life we have to organise it a bit more. What we’ll probably do is a five day run and then another. Hopefully we’ll get round to that next year.

How important are the videos?

Very. They’re made by our friends who are normally photographers or video makers that are up for chipping in. When we were signed before, we made videos with directors and we weren’t necessarily happy with the results. And when you do it yourself you are. We’re very happy with our own ideas and are putting them out through our own label. It’s important to maintain that relationship with people, especially when you’re not out playing gigs.

What’s next?

Well, on a personal level, Emily and I are going to be getting married and having a baby. As a band the album is about to be released so we’ll do as much promotion as we can. We’d like to play a few more festivals – it’s a great summer record and the reaction we’ve been getting has been great.

Get to Grips is out on 18 July.

Words by Sam Ballard


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